Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yard Work and Cardinals

Of course, I’m not the only one working in the garden. Photo by: Beccano

I have been busily trimming the big oak, spraying the wounds to help prevent oak wilt, and shredding the trimmings. Several weeks ago, I bought a used Troybuilt chipper/shredder, and once I figured out that I had to use starter fluid to get it running, I have been very happy with it.

I’ve been taking the shredded branches and spreading them over the flowerbeds as mulch. Even with the cost of gasoline, that is much less expensive than buying mulch, and I get the satisfaction of recycling the biomass in the yard. Mulching in this manner has been shown to keep plants healthier by protecting them from the sun and reduce water consumption. (We are currently under voluntary water rationing, but that will become mandatory as summer progresses.)

I took a break from that activity this afternoon to work the compost pile. It had gotten slightly out-of-balance and taken on that sickly-sweet smell that comes just before going completely anaerobic. Working the pile gives it a complete turning and should enable it to regain balance. Of course, it yields a nice crop of compost for me to distribute among my hungry, deserving plants.

Double Impatiens Small The double impatiens seem to have survived the division and massive root pruning. Hopefully, they will be happier with more room to grow again—not to mention fresh soil.

Double Impatiens

I used the opportunity to repot a could of sickly things that I don’t remember what they are. (Suna, my consulting taxonomist, informs me that they are double impatiens.)

When I depotted them, I found that they were completely root bound. Their roots had become a solid mass that retained the shape of the hanging basket. To make matters worse, both baskets had ant colonies.

I shook the ants out into the freshly turned compost pile. I figured they could battle it out with the ants that were already living in the pile. Or since they were different species, they might find their way back into the tree. I count at least four different species of ant living in the yard. No wonder they keep coming into the house.

Then I went to work dividing the impatiens. From the two baskets, I was able to:

  • Replant the original baskets
  • Pot up an 8” container
  • Plant two more groups in the front flowerbed expansion

All of these should be healthier and more vigorous with more room and fresh soil. I do worry that the front yard may be too hot for those I moved there. But I planted them in the back of the bed where they should get very little direct sun. They are in the shade of a rosemary bush that has been happily growing since before I moved in.

Caladium bicolor (?) Although they weren’t labeled, I think they closely resemble Caladium bicolor (Florida Sweetheart). You can see the shredded oak mulch.


I also potted two red-leafed caladiums (Thanks again, Suna.) in a recycled pot that held the New Guinea impatiens I put in the front of the front flowerbed expansion. These went on the green garden table, next to Beccano’s pineapple.

Potting Mix

For planting, I use a 50-50 mixture of potting soil and compost. I had enough compost left to give all of the plants a nice top-dressing and spread some in a troubled patch of lawn. It sure feels good to give this back to Nature. All of the materials in the compost pile would otherwise had ended up in a landfill or down the disposal.

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